Vanuatu to New Caledonia - Day 3 - Arrived Noumea 22 16.625S 166 26.400E
Mike and Liz Downing
Tue 2 Oct 2012 10:45
Arrived Port Moselle in Noumea, New Caledonia, at 15.00 this afternoon. A noon-to-noon run of 126 miles and a total distance of 292.6 miles. Getting to the pass through the reef at the time required proved difficult as the winds were up and down again all night, so sometimes we were making 7kts and sometimes 3-4kts. The wind also went a bit more south, so it wasn't possible to make the course without putting in one large tack, which of course takes longer. So we entered the pass about a hour later than planned, but still had 3kts of current with us. Although the current was quite strong, it was no where near as bad as the pilot books suggested. We didn't see any signs of the dangerous overfalls they described. We also didn't see any other vessels throughout the passage until we approached the pass where 2 other boats were waiting for daylight before going through, one of them being the square-rigger Soren Larsen. She is one of the tall ships that still operate commercially by selling passages for those keen to crew an old sailing ship. She looked a picture with all her sails set and we got some good photos as we followed her in and then passed her (and we were sailing too - no motor!). Having gone through the pass (on the east side of New Caledonia), it was a 40 mile passage within the reef to Noumea (on the west side) in flat water - just a little wind chop, but no swell at all, being protected by the outer barrier reef. New Caledonia boasts the biggest lagoon in the world - virtually the whole island is surrounded by an offshore barrier reef creating a huge lagoon around most of the coast. New Caledonia is approximately 215 miles long and 30 miles wide, so the lagoon really is vast. Although the wind was up and down, we did sail the whole way, just using the engine to get out one end and in the other. It's always more satisfying doing that, and cheaper too (less diesel and less wear and tear). Again, very few birds were seen on the passage. An Australasian Gannet, just the one, was the wildlife highlight of the day as it circled around the boat for a while at daybreak.
The Noumea skyline looks like mainland Europe, with modern looking hotels lining the beaches. We haven't ventured ashore yet to see what it's like as we still have our yellow Q flag up awaiting Quarantine to pay a visit to check our stores (there are lots of things that you are not allowed to bring into the country - things like meat, eggs and fresh fruit and vegetables) and we need to check in with Immigration first thing in the morning. The Customs paperwork was completed this afternoon. Port Moselle is a bang up-to-date marina and arranges the Quarantine, Customs and Immigration clearance for overseas boats.
We're now over 20 degrees south and although still in the tropics (just), the nights at sea were quite cold - shoes and socks were the order of the day (or rather, night), the first time we've worn them since leaving New Zealand in May. It will be interesting to see how cold it gets at night on land. By all accounts the sea temperature here is a lot colder than Fiji.